They never had any integrity, but before the Great Stupid, they could at least pretend. That was good enough to serve the real purpose of such awards and their televised ceremonies. Now, since they can’t even pretend, the awards have no purpose, and increasingly, no audiences.
The Grammys were the latest televised awards show debacle. That show’s rating hit an all-time low, following similar results for the Golden Globes, the Emmys, the Academy Awards (with this year’s new low on the horizon), and nobody ever watched the Tonys anyway. This result was preordained as soon as the organizations sponsoring and running the various awards competitions, enthusiastically applauded by the woke news media, decided to make honoring minority , especially black, performers a new mission.
By doing so, the organizations were admitting that the awards were never objective assessments of quality in the first place. Of course they weren’t, but the contrary illusion was crucial to the commercial mission of such awards: to promote the product and its creators. Movies that win Oscars used to get a big bump in ticket sales. Songs that win Grammys are downloaded more. The individual artists gain prestige that helps their careers. All of this is dependent on consumers buying the myth that the awards, any of them, are reliable measures of quality, and especially superior quality.
Has racial bias played a big role in determining award-winners? Sure it has. How could it not? Most of the voters are going to belong to the majority demographic, which is white. They will tend to like entertainment by made by people and featuring people who “look like them.” So do consumers of entertainment. This is neither sinister not racist: indeed, the “I want to see/hear/care about people like me” is a virtual mantra among minority critics who deplore the whiteward tilt of most U.S. entertainment. In order to adjust for this bias in award shows, voters have to be trained, after being shamed, into adopting different biases, and for this to satisfy critics, activists and race-baiters,the results have to be evident and celebrated. Thus every award show in the past year has featured “firsts” focused on race among its nominations and winners.This may address one problem, but the problem it creates is much greater.
Trumpeting a new bias, even a positive or remedial one, devalues the awards, and devaluing the awards reduces their promotional value. Reducing their promotional values hurts the prestige of the awards, their value even to the most legitimate award-winners, and their ability to generate consumers and audiences. And profits.
The sophisticated consumers of movies, theatrical shows, TV, songs and music always have known the awards were bunk, determined by a dizzying mess of biases, just as they always knew that critics were deaf, dumb and blind, evaluating these art forms by criteria alien to any normal human being. But awards have never been aimed at sophisticated consumers. They were and are designed for suckers—the gullible and ignorant—and this group makes up the majority of any mass market. Various thumbs, or fists, have always been on the scales determining awards, but as long as the hoi polloi believed that they were fair competitions determined by superior talent and quality, they worked.
The first misguided step toward crippling the promotional value of the awards was when the entertainment industry decided to make partisan politics a blazing factor in the awards, and make it obvious too, through artists suddenly using the awards shows as platforms for their half-baked passions and juvenile pronouncements. In the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, for example, the film with the biggest box office was almost always, if not a lock for the Oscar, a major contender. Once that changed, even an idiot could figure out that what was being called “the best” by the awards awarders had little to do with what audiences—you know, those people a film is supposedly made to please?—think is “the best.” In an earlier era, “Jurassic Park,” not “Schindler’s List,” would have been the 1993 winner of the “Best Film” Oscar. (It was a better and more influential movie, too.)
The second, and I believe decisive, step in pushing the awards to irrelevance is ostentatious affirmative action. That is what is going on when voters are told, pressured, or otherwise influenced to favor minority artists in order to address “systemic racism.” Addressing systemic racism—and beyond question, all of the entertainment genres have been guilty of that—still isn’t what awards are supposed to signify. Reversing the bias may make some awards fairer, or at least unfair in a different way, but its still a loud admission that quality isn’t what the awards are about.
It they aren’t about objective assessments of quality, why should anyone care about them—including those who receive the honors?
In order to save entertainment awards from real or perceived racial bias, the entertainment industries are in the process of destroying the one feature that justified their existence: make naive and easily deceived consumers believe that the awards meant the art was worth paying for.